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‘Gross Anatomy’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 20, 1989


Thom Eberhardt
Matthew Modine;
Daphne Zuniga;
Christine Lahti
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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Stick out your tongue and say "nah" to "Gross Anatomy."

Insinuating moniker aside, the movie aims to be a thoughtful dramatic comedy about five dissimilar medical students who learn teamwork while dissecting their cadaver. That's where the cutting up comes in.

Matthew Modine stars as the cocky Joe, the most promising of the quintet, a melting potpourri of the privileged (Daphne Zuniga), the pregnant (Alice Carter), the toadying (John Scott Clough) and the amphetamine-abusing (Todd Field). Christine Lahti, as their dedicated gross anatomy professor, goads the rookies toward their goal.

Despite his arrogance and insensitivity to the sick and dying, Joe excites the professor's interest with his quick mind. Determined to make a healer of this Hippocratic oaf, she pushes him to the limit. Zuniga, as Laurie, is also drawn to the self-absorbed wisecracker as they snip away at their class project. At first she resists his gator grin and tight-boxer-shorts lope, but since this is a movie and the script calls for it, she gives in.

Because of Joe's immaturity, his relationships with Laurie and the others disintegrate quickly. He's impossible. Asked what he would say to a terminal patient, he replies glibly, "I guess I'd say goodbye." Modine is a talented actor, but it would take the toothsomeness of Tom Cruise to redeem this pill.

Whether the kids are dissecting, kissing or dressing down the dean, the dramatic weight is the same. A rush to deliver a coed's baby seems only slightly more urgent than calling for a pizza. Thom Eberhardt of the piffling "Without a Clue" directs from Ron Nyswaner and Mark Spragg's rudderless generic screenplay. Eberhardt is apparently still without a clue.

Is there a script doctor in the house?

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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